Paleo Diet Foods: Pemmican

We are getting to a place in our society where having a stash of food may become important. There are those who are talking about a total break down in our society, as in supermarket shelves being emptied, food becoming expensive and scarce. Is this possible? I would think it IS possible but I don’t know that it will happen. I suspect that disruptions in the food supply could happen at any time, but it is beyond my ability or the scope of this article to predict the advent of such a food shortage.

Lila's homemade pemmican

But what can be done is to prepare anyway for such a possibility. The worse thing that would happen is that you end up with a basement, closet or pantry full of food that will last for years. There is nothing wrong with that. We keep candles, flashlights and batteries in case of power failures. Why not have some extra food around? But what can be done if you are following the Paleo diet? Most food that people might store for emergencies are canned and boxed, probably full of carbs and sugars we don’t want. Certainly beans and canned corn would be off the menu. There is canned fish which under ordinary circumstances is a great food for the Paleo diet. Salmon, sardines, mackerel are all terrific to have around. But eventually even that would grow tiresome.

To mix things up, a fantastic and traditional long shelf life Paleo diet food is pemmican. Pemmican is a traditional food produced by native Americans for travel and long term storage. Some of the tribes were the last true hunter gatherers in North America. And they lived accordingly. Traditional pemmican is made up of dehydrated bison or venison and rendered suet, probably from bison, since venison is very lean. This is a food that will last for years without refrigeration without going rancid. But only if it’s made in the true traditional style.

Since pemmican is an acquired taste, Europeans changed the recipe by adding berries to make it a bit more palatable. But this also shortens the life of the product dramatically. In my desire to be as authentic as possible, I rejected the recipes that called for dried blueberries or cranberries. I wanted to make this a food that would last for years with out any special method of preservation like vacuum sealing or canning.

The most basic recipe calls for equal amounts of ground up beef, bison or venison jerky and rendered beef or bison tallow. The jerky should be made without additional seasonings that you might ordinarily use. When I make beef jerky, I will add garlic powder, pepper, salt and maybe a little fermented tamari sauce. But when I make pemmican I just cut the beef into strips and dry it. And I dry it until it breaks very easily. For beef jerky it’s actually a little too dry, but for pemmican, it’s perfect. Take the dried meat and grind it up in a food processor or other device for grinding. My favorite tool for this job is the Ninja Master Prep Professional Blender. I bought it specifically for making pemmican and it works really well for the purpose. Grind the jerky to a powder.

Rendering beef suet is an easy process. You can follow several different methods of rendering. The wet method is to put the suet into water, and let the boiling water render out the fat, then skim the fat off the top or put it in the refrigerator to harden, then remove the fat.  The dry method, which is what I prefer,  is to put the suet into a crock pot or a large pot on the stove top and on a very low heat, render out the tallow.  One of the reasons I prefer this method is the crispy bits of suet you are left with after the fat has rendered out. Yummy stuff! Waste not, want not!

Take the ground up jerky and place it in a large bowl. Sprinkle in a little bit of sea salt. Start to add the warm liquid tallow to the bowl and mix it into the jerky well. Taste it periodically to see if it has enough salt. Keep adding the tallow until the  ground jerky is basically covered, but still visible. Since the recipe is 50/50, it will not be a liquid but not dry either.

There are different ways of setting up the pemmican. One method is to take the mixture, pour it into a shallow baking tray lined with parchment or wax paper. Spread it out to an even layer, then put it in the fridge to harden. Then break or cut it into pieces.

Or you can do what I do - get a muffin tin, line the muffin forms with foil cupcake liners and pour in the mixture. This makes nice, neat little packets that are easy to store.

The first time I made pemmican I found the two videos below produced by Caroline Kipnis to be extremely educational.


If you don’t want to go through the effort of making pemmican you can buy it from US Wellness Meats.

It is my sincere hope that this food will never be used for an emergency. Rather, take it on your next hike.  Pemmican is a Paleo diet food of the purest fashion and will give you energy that will last for hours.


Did you enjoy this?

If you liked this article, enter your email below and we will send you a brief and focused newsletter every Thursday morning. No fluff, no spam, no advertising. Just the best of the best recipes, articles, and news.

2 Responses to Paleo Diet Foods: Pemmican

  1. Brad Scott November 27, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Awesome Post. Love the Paleo Diet. Its such a great way to build muscle and speed up your metabolism.

    • Lila Solnick November 27, 2011 at 9:03 pm

      Thanks for the comment Brad. Paleo is a terrific way of living and makes the most sense. I hope you enjoy making pemmican. Cheers!